What just happened? The turmoil stirred by Blizzard’s stance on players voicing support for the Hong Kong protesters has come to haunt its annual BlizzCon event — as predicted. Protestors showed up with picket signs and tee-shirts supporting Hong Kong and suspended player Blitzchung.
On Friday, a group of about 15-20 #FreeHongKong protest organizers showed up at the Anaheim Convention Center, where the BlizzCon is held annually. The protesters held up picket signs and were ironically passing out tee-shirts adorned with Mei from Overwatch on them.
Mei was chosen as the mascot for the protest since she is Chinese. The black shirts feature Mei waving the flag of Hong Kong and the words “Mei With Hong Kong.” The organizers handed out about 4,000 of the shirts.
“We hope that the attendees will wear the shirts inside to raise awareness of what’s happening in Hong Kong and Blizzard’s decision to disqualify one of its contestants for his free speech,” one of the organizers Charles Lam told The Hollywood Reporter. “We want everyone to realize that even though free speech is limited in China, it shouldn’t happen in America.”
Some protesters also wore Winnie the Pooh costumes. Chinese President Xi Jingping banned the character after protesters compared him with the simple-minded bear. Wearing Pooh costumes seems silly, but can get you arrested in China. It is the protesters’ way of thumbing their nose at the Communist leader.
We expected protests to spring up at BlizzCon due to the proximity of the event’s date to the banning of Hong Kong Hearthstone pro-player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung. Blizzard initially punished Blitzchung with a one-year suspension and forfeiture of his tournament winnings for holding up a pro-Hong Kong sign. It subsequently lowered the penalty to six months and gave back his award money, but only after brutal backlash.
The BlizzCon protesters did not go unnoticed either. Blizzard President J. Allen Brack acknowledged the group during the opening ceremony and voiced an apology.
“We didn’t live up to the high standards we set for ourselves, and I am sorry,” Brack said to the gathered crowd. “We will do better going forward. We are committed to allowing people to express themselves.”
He then wowed the audience with a very long-awaited Diablo 4 trailer. We shall see if his words and distraction are enough to calm the waters for a while.